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Recordings

Steven Mercurio: Many Voices
12 Nov 2006

MERCURIO: Many Voices

Conductor Steven Mercurio appears to have made a highly favorable impression on singers in his career so far (some of the following info comes from his website, http://stevenmercurio.com/).

Steven Mercurio: Many Voices

Sumi Jo, Andrea Bocelli, Gino Quilico, Marcello Giordani, Ana Maria Martinez, Rolando Villazon, Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Seven Mercurio (cond.)

Sony Classical 82876872272 [CD]

$14.97  Click to buy

Six of today’s best singers (if gentle OperaToday readers will gracefully acknowledge at least the enormous popularity of Andrea Bocelli) perform on the Sony Classical release of Mr. Mercurio’s compositions for voice and orchestra, Many Voices. Soprano Sumi Jo sings two of the 7 selections, with soprano Ana Maria Martinez taking the only other piece for female voice. Besides Bocelli, who wrote the texts for two pieces, two other fine tenors appear: Marcello Giordani and Rolando Villazon, who takes on the 20-minute plus “Serenade for Tenor and Orchestra.” Baritone Gino Quilico brings a darker hue to the remaining of the seven selections.

Whatever personal or professional qualities drew these singers to make their talents available to Mr. Mercurio cannot be evaluated; the music doesn't present much vocal challenge, except for a few moments of almost operatic rhetoric. Many of the compositions feel like efforts in the genre of “easy listening,” with little dynamic variation, a tendency to slower tempos, and string-heavy orchestrations. The aforementioned website describes Mercurio’s association with Gian Carlo Menotti, and his love and respect for Puccini - certainly understandable. However, his music feels like a much later generation of the style of those two more esteemed composers. The music especially has a trait of seeming melodic without actually developing any memorable melodic material.

The review copy provided no texts (or attributions for the authors). The opening piece, “A White Rose,” can serve as a good example of Mercurio’s taste. John Boyle O'Reilly’s short love poem is an almost too tasteful tribute to amorous yet romantic love. Mercurio sets it as if it were a Hallmark card sentiment, with the “blush” of erotic attraction a distant suggestion.

Whatever the quality of Bocelli’s text for “Desiderio,” it does inspire some more dramatic music form Mr. Mercurio, and Bocelli himself gives evidence of the attractive tone and pleasure in singing that have earned him so much popularity. Marcello Giordani sings another Bocelli text, “Paternita,” where Mercurio’s orchestration has more than a faint resemblance to Canteloube’s “Bolero” from Songs of the Auvergne.

Most of the selection are not much longer than a typical pop song, but the final track, “Serenade for tenor and orchestra,” goes on for over 20 minutes of neo-Straussian (Richard) waltzes, with lurches into unprovoked climaxes. Villazon sings handsomely but indicates that his English is not at the same level as other operatic languages he has mastered.

If just one number stayed with the listener, enticing frequent revisits, the opera world could be glad to have a composer who knows the value of melodicism and heartfelt emotion. It’s all well to respect the greatness of Puccini. Following in his footsteps, however, seems to mean staying forever in the master’s prodigious shadow. That’s where listeners will find Many Voices.

Chris Mullins

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